Category Archives: EQUIPMENT

West Australian police officers suffer setback in Fremantle Taser damages appeal

Three WA policemen who Tasered a couple during an arrest and were ordered to pay damages have had an appeal setback, with their union not paying security on a crucial court costs bill.

Robert Cunningham and Catherine Atoms were outside the Esplanade Hotel in the early hours of November 2, 2008 when they saw a group of men falling into a garden bed and tried to help.

But police believed they were causing a disturbance and the couple were Tasered during a scuffle.

The University of WA associate professor of law and Ms Atoms sued the state and the three officers involved, Peter Clark, Simon Traynor and Glenn Caldwell, and were awarded $1.1 million in damages.

The 2015 trial judge found the officers were liable for battery, misfeasance in public office, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

She also found the conduct caused the couple to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and a back injury to Ms Atoms.

The officers challenged, arguing on 24 grounds, but were ordered by Justice Robert Mitchell last month to pay $90,000 security on a court costs bill – already estimated to have reached at least $900,000 – by August 23 or the appeal would be dismissed.

On Wednesday, the full bench of the Court of Appeal dismissed an application to review Justice Mitchell’s order.

The court heard the union decided not to provide the security payment, and the judges said “the appeal is arguable, but we … would not put it any higher than that”.

But the officers have applied for a 48-hour extension to make the payment and will find out later on Wednesday if it has been allowed.

In his recent provisional assessment of the appeal, Justice Mitchell said the arguments advanced in support of grounds one to 19 were “far from strong”.

He also noted the officers’ liability for damages and trial costs already exceeded their assets.

Traynor’s wages have been suspended as he is on continued sick leave while Caldwell is unemployed and receives a disability pension but Clark continues to work in the police force.

AAP

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Henry Sapiecha

Phone Surveillance by the FBI & Police is in place already

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Your local police may use a controversial piece of technology—ominously dubbed a stingray—to track your phone. But, the FBI is taking pains to make sure you never find out. The agency encourages police to find additional evidence so that stingray technology never comes up in court, according to a new memo.

It’s no secret that law enforcement agencies scattered around the country use such devices—known as IMSCI catchers, or colloquially “stingrays”—which mimic cellphone towers and collect data, like phone numbers and location, from everyone in their vicinity. But that’s not because the FBI isn’t trying to hide that fact. The agency is so keen on keeping the devices from the public that it asks local police departments to sign nondisclosure agreements about their stingrays—leading to some cops trying withdrawing cases that rely on stingrays for evidence.>>>>>…MORE HERE >>>>www.intelagencies.com

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Henry Sapiecha

Police in South Australia adopting facial-recognition technology

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The South Australian government has awarded NEC Australia with a AU$780,000 contract to implement facial-recognition technology as of late October for the state’s police force in an effort to make it easier to identify persons of interest and missing persons.

The facial-recognition technology allows police to compare images of suspects from such sources as closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage against offender databases. In future, the technology has the capacity to instantly identify people on real-time CCTV footage, but this feature won’t be used on launch.

According to Police Minister Peter Malinauskas, the technology will be rolled out by late October as part of a state government push to reduce crime by boosting police numbers and resources.

“Our police budget is at the highest level in history, with more front-line police soon to be on the beat than ever before,” Malinauskas said on Monday.

“The world we live in is changing, and with that comes a need to change the way we police.”

The South Australian government’s decision to deploy facial identification follows the Northern Territory’s implementation of the technology in September last year.

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The success of the technology in the Northern Territory, which was also implemented by NEC Australia, influenced South Australia to adopt it, South Australia Police Superintendent Scott Allison said.

“They’ve had extraordinary results from CCTV images that they’ve captured, through to enhanced investigations, even historical investigations,” Allison said.

Northern Territory Police partnered with NEC Australia almost a year ago to implement facial-recognition technology, deploying NEC’s NeoFace Reveal solution following a trial of the tech in early 2015. The technology allows NT Police to search through its database of photos, CCTV footage, and videos taken from phones, drones, and body-worn cameras to compare to the police database of photos.

In April this year, NEC Australia also secured a AU$52 million contract with Australian law-enforcement technology agency CrimTrac to replace the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) in 2017.

The system will involve not only fingerprints, but also palm prints and facial recognition.

“The Biometric Identification System (BIS) will not only integrate with existing law-enforcement systems, but advance as our nation’s biometric capability advances,” Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter Terrorism Michael Keenan said in a statement at the time.

“This is vital in the current national security landscape, because it is essential to have robust and efficient cross-border information sharing to support the law enforcement agencies that protect our communities.

“It’s also vital our authorities are one step ahead of the sophistication of organised criminal syndicates who are adopting new and advanced technologies to exploit Australians and increase the misery they peddle.”

The Australian government had allocated AU$700,000 to CrimTrac as part of its 2015 Budget for the development of the facial recognition system.

The federal government also announced last year that it would spend AU$18.5 million to establish the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability for image-sharing purposes by government and law-enforcement agencies, which was expected to be up and running by mid-2016.

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Henry Sapiecha

New York police begin using ShotSpotter system to detect gunshots

New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton, center, speaks during a news conference at police headquarters in New York.

New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton, center, speaks during a news conference at police headquarters in New York. Photo: AP

The New York Police Department has started using a detection system that pinpoints the location of gunfire and sends the information to law enforcement, the latest move to modernise the nation’s largest police force, the department announced Monday.

The system, called ShotSpotter, is used in several major cities. It works by installing sensors – basically, sensitive microphones – around an area to pick up sounds from the street that might be gunfire, and uses the sensors to locate where the shots were fired. It then sends the information to the Police Department.

As part of a pilot program, ShotSpotter sensors are being placed in seven precincts in the Bronx and 10 in Brooklyn, a total area of 15 square miles, where there have been a high number of shootings. The sensors in the Bronx began working shortly after midnight Monday, and sent data on shots fired at 12:49am The sensors in Brooklyn will start collecting data shortly after midnight next Monday.

“Today, we are rolling out cutting edge technology to make the city safer, to make our neighborhoods safer, to keep our officers safer,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appeared with William Bratton, the police commissioner, to announce the initiative. “This gunshot detection system is going to do a world of good in terms of going after the bad guys.”
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Both the mayor and Bratton stressed that ShotSpotter would help the relationship between the police and the communities where they work while also helping officers respond more quickly to shootings. Still, some have raised concerns about how the data might be used.

The city first solicited proposals for a pilot program in 2009, and tested a system from Safety Dynamics, but found that the technology yielded too many false alarms.

In 2014, the city again sought proposals, after de Blasio’s campaign promise to bring gunfire detection software to the city. Bratton has also supported the measure; he sat on ShotSpotter’s board before returning as commissioner, but has since resigned, the company said.

ShotSpotter is used in cities including Washington, Boston, San Francisco and Minneapolis, as well as smaller cities like East Chicago, Indiana, according to Ralph Clark, the company’s chief executive.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the use of the ShotSpotter system.

Bratton said that episodes in which guns are fired are vastly underreported. “On average, 75 percent of shots fired called in by ShotSpotter are never called into 911,” he said.

Gun violence in the city has increased this year, with 185 shootings reported, up 11 percent from the same period last year, according to the Police Department. Bratton said ShotSpotter’s data might further raise the numbers, since more gunshots will be recorded and reported to the police.

ShotSpotter works to ensure accuracy by requiring that three sensors pick up the sound of gunfire; additionally, the recordings of any gunshots are sent to ShotSpotter’s headquarters in Newark, California, where analysts determine whether the noises were gunshots or something else like backfiring cars or slamming doors.

The two-year pilot program in New York will cost US$1.5 million (A$2 million) annually, Bratton said.

Some experts and elected officials are raising concerns about how the data, which belongs to the Police Department, is collected and used.

Letitia James, the city’s public advocate, is planning to introduce a bill to the City Council to require quarterly reports on the gunshots recorded, as well as any other data collected by the ShotSpotter system.

Eben Moglen, a privacy law professor at Columbia University, said programs like ShotSpotter have Fourth Amendment implications.

If potentially incriminating evidence is picked up by the microphones, he said, it should not be allowed as evidence, because it constitutes a warrantless search and seizure by collecting public sounds.

Clark said ShotSpotter has received inquiries from those looking to improve relations between police officers and the communities they serve because it can provide more information on cloudy confrontations between police and civilians, like the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri.

Clark said ShotSpotter was able to find that the source of the gunfire in that case did not move over the course of the confrontation.

“This is not about technology, it’s not about law enforcement,” Clark said. “It’s really about how communities and law enforcement can work together to deter gun violence.”

The New York TImes

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Henry Sapiecha

LA POLICE DEPT. TO BUY AROUND 7,000 BODY CAMERAS FOR ITS POLICE FORCE

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced this week that the city has signed a contract to buy 800 TASER International Axon body cameras, using $1.5 million raised from private sources. In addition, the city plans to buy and deploy another 6,200 body cameras this coming year.

“Out on the street, things aren’t always clear cut,” Mayor Garcetti said in a December 16 statement to the press. “These cameras will help law enforcement and the public alike find the truth — and truth is essential to the trust between the LAPD and the community, which has been a key factor in lowering crime to record lows.”

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TASER is one of the top four vendors in the body camera market, and the company’s Axon cameras are in service with numerous police departments, including San Francisco and San Diego. Axon has a 130-degree lens with a 640 x 480 resolution and a 14-hour battery life. Incidents are digitally recorded on the camera and then uploaded to a cloud-based service called Evidence.com. That’s the main selling point for Axon, TASER CEO Rick Smith says—it relieves police officers and departments of having to upload all this footage themselves.
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Following the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 killing of Mike Brown, President Obama promised that the federal government would set aside $75 million in matching funds to help law enforcement agencies purchase body 50,000 cameras.

Initially, police unions were opposed to body cameras as being too invasive, but in recent years, and especially after Ferguson, some have been coming around. In Los Angeles, the representative organization for rank-and-file cops has stated that it doesn’t object to cameras. Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, noted in a December 16 statement that the devices “will be useful in defending our officers against false allegations.”
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Still, some have wondered if videotaping cops will make a difference, especially following a Staten Island jury’s decision not to indict officers involved in the recorded choking death of Eric Garner. Without referring to specific cases, Smith notes that psychological studies have shown that even posters depicting watching eyes have an effect on people. Cops will also behave differently, he contends, if they know from the get-go that they are being videotaped as opposed to already “being in a melee and someone whipping at a cellphone.”

What if cops forget to turn on their cameras, or deliberately turn them off? TASER plans next year to roll out Axon Signal, a system that would automatically “turn the camera on for the officer when he puts the lights on in his car or when he pulls his Taser out of his holster or” following “a whole of bunch of [other] wireless triggers.”

Of course, that won’t stop an officer from turning off his camera, but such an action wouldn’t look too good for the cop, Smith says. Besides, no system is foolproof.

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Henry Sapiecha

Court May Wipe Out Stoplight Spy Cams:

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Ticket-happy traffic cameras, the bane of many a driver’s existence, are back in the spotlight again this week after the state supreme court in Ohio heard arguments over whether cities there can fine commuters for running red lights—an infraction typically under state jurisdiction that lets drivers off with just a citation. Now the fate of traffic cameras all across Ohio is being questioned after an Akron attorney sued the city when local law enforcement officials mailed a citation to his wife. PM contributing editor Glenn Reynolds wrote about traffic cameras last year, highlighting how unreliable and dubious they can actually be when it comes to safety. The Ohio verdict won’t be decided for a few months, but until then, plenty of people are weighing in on whether the cameras are invasion, unsafe or just plain unreliable. Feel free to sound off in the comments section below…—Wayne Ma

Henry Sapiecha

Cobra XRS 9950 Tells You When Big Brother Is Watching: Tech Test

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Cobra XRS 9950 /// $259 (radar detector); $129 (GPS speed/red-light camera accessory) /// Available now

The Promise: “The XRS 9950 provides total protection and peace of mind with Xtreme Range Superhetrodyne Technology, detecting all 12 radar/laser bands with its super-fast lock-on detection circuitry.” It also has an integrated digital compass, as well as a car battery voltage display. When hooked up to its GPS locator, the XRS 9950 can deliver alerts about red light-running and speed-enforcing cameras. Cobra claims it maintains the only verified red-light camera database for the United States. Needless to say, that got us pretty excited earlier this year at CES—about the whole Big Brother thing, and a big year for new GPS units.

In Practice: First, let me state that all radar detectors use “superhetrodyne” technology, just in case anyone thought that might be something special. The extreme range part of the description is no joke—this detector picked up signals from police many miles before I ever saw them. It also picked up a lot of non-police noise that was probably from alarm systems, radar-based traffic monitoring systems, automatic opening sensors and other mysterious sources. Which is pretty much the problem with all radar detectors these days: The signal-to-noise ratio errs heavily in favor of noise. In fact, I counted what I considered to be 20 false positives for every actual radar trap the XRS 9950 picked up. It’s possible that all those cops were out there hiding very, very well, but I doubt it. That’s not the fault of this particular detector—it just so happens that the X and Ka bands are pretty crowded these days.

As for the GPS locator, it’s a rather unwieldy thing (2.25 in. x 2.25 in. x 0.5 in.) that dangles from the main detector unit via a USB cord, though the company promises a smaller one for 2009. It works as advertised, blurting out a voice warning whenever red-light or speed-enforcing cameras are in your path. In my (rather suburban) area, I didn’t come across any speed trap cameras—only cameras that would send you a ticket if you ran a red light. At every such warning, I looked around the intersection and, sure enough, there was the camera. Since I didn’t plan to run any red lights, the main way Cobra’s clever-seeming gadget changed my driving habits was that it made me stop looking at traffic signals and start looking for cameras instead.

Bottom Line: The Cobra XRS 9950 radar detector does indeed pick up cops with radar and laser speed detection guns and, when outfitted with the GPS accessory, automated traffic cameras. I must admit, however, that I found the camera detector accessory frustrating: There is a certain libertarian satisfaction in knowing when you’re being watched, but also a certain frustration in not being able to do anything about it. —Glenn Derene

Henry Sapiecha

Turning the Tables on Red-Light Cameras with Cobra’s New GPS: Glenn Reynolds’s CES Consumer Watch

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LAS VEGAS — Okay, the tricked-out, “Cobraized” sports car will get the most attention. But Cobra’s new line of GPS and radar-detector products shows that the latest round in the war between motorists and traffic authorities is heating up.

I wrote in Popular Mechanics a while back about the growing trend of revenue-hungry localities to implement red-light cameras and speed cameras, and that’s a trend that has continued in the ensuing years. But now Cobra is integrating its own proprietary — and, they say, verified — database of red-light and speed cameras into its new GPS and radar-detector products. With one of these, you’ll get a warning icon and (unless you shut it off) an audio warning (it sounds like a digital camera’s shutter sound) as you approach a red-light or speed camera. Cobra’s David Marsh demonstrated the GPS to me, and it looked quite easy to use. Cobra’s database also integrates “black zones” — intersections or stretches of roads where accident rates are unusually high — and warns users of those, too.

Marsh told me that Cobra is also working on making its devices easier to use for aging baby boomers and others with less-than-perfect eyesight, making sure that text is large and crisp, and that buttons are big and easy to push. Good design guidelines for every product, regardless of demographic. Cobra’s GPS, the GPSM5000, is already on the market. Its GPS-integrated radar detector, the XRS 9950, will be out in March.— Glenn Reynolds

Henry Sapiecha

LICENSE PLATE READING SYSTEM WILL PRESENT LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES WITH CHALLENGES

Systems that automatically read automobile license plates have the potential to save police investigative time and increase safety, but law enforcement officials must address issues related to staffing, compatibility and privacy before the technology can reach its full potential, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

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As part of efforts to promote innovation in law enforcement, many of the first generation license plate reader systems were purchased with federal and state grants. As these funding streams can be inconsistent, law enforcement agencies are – or will be – forced to make tough decisions about how to maintain the systems.

Making those decisions will require a clear understanding of the current and potential value of the systems to criminal justice agencies, according to RAND researchers.

“License plate readers are a relatively new technology that can be used to help investigate almost any type of crime,” said Keith Gierlack, the study’s lead author and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “But there are important issues, particularly about privacy, that must be addressed before this tool can reach its full potential.”

Because the systems retain information about every license plate read, privacy advocates say law enforcement agencies could use license plate information to track movement of individuals, even if they are not suspects in a crime.

Key privacy issues facing local departments also include establishing standards about how long to keep information collected by license plate scanners, who in a department has access to the information and the types of investigations where the scanner information should be used, Gierlack said.

Some jurisdictions have adopted policies to retain data for set periods, such as six or 12 months. Legislation was introduced in California to regulate use of the license plate readers and legal decisions in New Hampshire, Maine and Virginia have restricted the technology. But no broadly accepted privacy guidelines have emerged to help guide police agencies that adopt the technology.

License plate readers are fixed or mobile cameras that capture an image of a passing vehicle, compare its license plate against official “hotlists” and alert authorities whether it may be of interest. Surveys have found that as many as 70 percent of local police agencies may be using the technology.

Promoted initially as a tool to assist in fighting auto thefts, the technology can be used in many additional ways that law enforcement agencies only have begun to discover.

Researchers say information collected by the scanners can be used to help track down many kinds of offenders (helping collect infraction fees), and could be used to help identify both crime hotspots and crime trends. In addition, the technology could help test the alibis of criminal suspects and support efforts to combat drug cartels and terrorist groups.

RAND researchers conducted their study by reviewing past research on the technology and conducting in-depth reviews of seven police departments that have adopted the technology. They examined budgeting, manpower and maintenance issues, as well as how the technology is being used to aid police work. Both large and small law enforcement agencies were studied, as well as agencies located along international borders.

RAND researchers found that license plate readers provide the most utility to police if they have access to multiple hotlists and other databases of license plates of interest, including DMV data. The lack of access to some of these hotlists reduces the types of investigations license plate readers can aid. Additionally, mechanisms for sharing license plate reader data between jurisdictions are not always available.

The study, “License Plate Readers for Law Enforcement: Opportunities and Obstacles,” can be found at http://www.rand.org. Other authors of the study are Shara Williams, Tom LaTourrette, James M. Anderson, Lauren A. Mayer and Johanna Zmud.

Funding for the study was provided by the Office of Justice Programs at the National Institute of Justice.

The project was conducted within the RAND Safety and Justice Program, which conducts public policy research on corrections, policing, public safety and occupational safety.

Henry Sapiecha

HYUNDI PRODUCES CAR THAT OUTSMARTS SPEED CAMERAS

PERHAPS SPEED CAMERAS AS WE KNOW THEM COULD BE A THING OF THE PAST

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Speed camera fines could become a thing of the past if Hyundai has its way.

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The brand is set to sell a luxury sedan in Australia that is capable of outsmarting speed cameras with a combination of GPS and braking technology.

Speaking in Seoul at the launch of the Hyundai Genesis, company spokesman Guido Schenken told journalists that the car could identify speed cameras and slow down if drivers are going too fast.

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“It knows there is a speed camera there, it knows where the speed camera is and it will adopt the correct speed,” he says.

“It will beep 800 metres before a camera and show the legal speed, and it will beep at you if your speed is over that.”

The Genesis, a luxury sedan designed to be a cut price alternative to models sold by BMW and Mercedes-Benz, features a suite of high-tech driver aids that include an active cruise control system that will apply the brakes to maintain a safe distance to the car in front.

It also has automated emergency braking technology that will stop the car to prevent a collision.

By coupling those self-braking systems with camera locations loaded into the car’s navigation software, the car will warn drivers ahead of speed traps and slow down if required.

The feature works for fixed speed cameras and average speed cameras, though it will not give drivers an advantage over mobile speed cameras or the highway patrol.

Hyundai will introduce the Genesis locally in October, 2014.

It has not confirmed local pricing or specifications. Unfortunately the technology won’t be offered on the Genesis initially.

Update: An earlier version of this story said Genesis models sold locally would likely get this feature but Hyundai has since confirmed it won’t be available.

Henry Sapiecha